Dion may be 84, but that hasn't stopped him recording a duet that reminds him of *that* scene in When Harry Met Sally

Dion holding a guitar sitting on steps
(Image credit: David Goldis)

At 84, Dion DiMucci shows no signs ofslowing down. He first came to prominence at 17 with the Belmonts, a vocal group hand-picked from the Bronx. Having racked up hits with such evergreens as The Wanderer and Runaround Sue, Dion repeatedly changed tack to retain contemporary R&B relevance, with King Of The New York Streets in ’89 and a trio of albums for Joe Bonamassa’s label KTBA: Blues With Friends, Stomping Ground and most recently Girl Friends, a set of collaborations with female artists.


What inspired Girl Friends

My last two albums featured a lot of collaborations, some with female artists like Samantha Fish and Rickie Lee Jones, and I had such a good time doing them that I decided to do an album exclusively with female artists that sometimes fly under the radar, wonderful artists like Joanne Shaw Taylor. I didn’t want every song to be conversational across-the-table duets, so I wrote some where the girls just play guitar, or do background vocals. I wanted to mix it up a bit. 

Why these particular artists? 

I really wanted Carlene Carter on An American Hero. I heard her on it; that whole down-to-earth Carter family attitude. She got it, and came aboard. I wanted Susan Tedeschi for Soul Force because she is a soul force. 

Were there names on your wish list that couldn’t make it? 

Christine McVie had died, and I loved her voice. She was always on my wish list. Chrissie Hynde was going to do I Got Wise but was too busy. Then I met Maggie Rose on Joe Bonamassa’s Blues Cruise, loved her voice and, well, I had to get this thing done. Though I missed her this time, hopefully Chrissie and I will do something together in the future.

Don’t You Want A Man Like Me is the kind of sweet-talking you’d expect of The Wanderer’s central protagonist. 

Exactly. There’s a lot of bragging rights in the blues, and I write a lot of those songs because they’re so much fun to sing: The Wanderer, King Of The New York Streets and Don’t You Want A Man Like Me. When I did that with Rory Block she sounded like… Did you ever see When Harry Met Sally? When Meg Ryan has that scene in the restaurant? After we finished the song, her husband walked into the studio and said: “I wouldn’t play this to your wife.” 

What are your recollections of playing on the ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper? 

Before the crash, my memory’s razorsharp. After, I don’t even remember how many weeks we played. None of us had ever been through anything this traumatic. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper were just great personalities to hang with, so for me that tour was a dream come true; two weeks, travelling with these guys, in the back of the bus singing Hank Williams songs to Buddy and Waylon Jennings. I miss those guys. They really had a big effect on my life in a lot of ways. I just wanna make ’em proud. 

And retirement’s still something that only happens to the other guy? 

Right now I’m living the most blessed life you could live, so I’ll keep doing it until God calls me home, what can I tell you? 

Girl Friends is out now via KTBA.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.